Last month, I, as a Customer Experience specialist, had a rude wake up call from a home renovation project specialist. This past month I began renovating my basement. It’s big, it’s old, it’s trapped in the ‘70s. Long story short, I thought through my past experience I could do it myself but after reaching out to a few contractors to get bids, I learned a lot about what I didn’t know. In fact, after these conversations with specialist that do full-scale renovations like mine, all day every day, it scared me to think that I even considered taking on something I soon realized, I knew nothing about.
We experience these same scenarios on the other side of the table as a customer experience specialists. When a terrific organization approaches us at CX Pilots, they typically come with a lot of confidence about a few things they want CX to accomplish for their business. Most aren’t contacting us because they want to transform their organizations into experience-led businesses right out of the gate. But when we start asking basic questions, the whole dynamic normally shifts, revealing gaps in their holistic understanding of how CX can and should benefit their organizations.
Our objective is not to shake their plans or foundations, it is to get a strong idea of where they are today and where they want to go. The challenge is they aren’t aware of the possibilities and are likely looking at CX strategy through a very small and limited window.
Let’s examine one example from last year. A midsized accounting firm contacted us looking for a client journey mapping facilitator with experience running virtual mapping projects allowing them to include people across their 12 offices in North America.
Their stated objective was to “improve customer service, user experience, customer support and ultimately customer satisfaction.” They were confident that client journey mapping was what they needed to accomplish those goals, and they were only interested in learning our process, technology capabilities, cost for running the project and the concrete deliverables that would result. Okay, great. We get this exact call several times a month. In almost 100 percent of these calls, we learn it’s not journey mapping they need but a CX strategy, a unified view on CX (typically and CX Vision or Purpose), a CX Charter communicating the purpose to employees in a way that can boost engagement, a clear roadmap that helps everyone know when and how they fit into the larger picture, value exchange planning to understand what they want CX to yield, etc. You get the picture, all the stuff that lays the foundation for journey mapping to have maximal impact.
So, in this example from last year, we asked the accounting firm these preliminary questions to gauge how well prepared we felt they were to undergo journey mapping. Unlike most companies we speak to, the woman from the firm explained how it was only journey mapping they needed and that was the end of the story. We answered her questions as cordially as we could but explained that for journey mapping to produce successful outcomes it had to focus on one client segment (persona) at a time. It needed to be limited to either current state (mapping what it is like today—not what we want it to be like in the future). When we asked if they had selected a client segment, she froze. “What do you mean by segment? We just want to map our clients. Why is this so difficult? I thought you said you guys could do that.” Ouch. Not what we wanted to hear. It seemed that either they didn’t want to hear what we had to say, or our communication skills fell short on this. Either way, it didn’t look good. After two weeks of back and forth conversations, trying to help them lay the groundwork for a successful journey mapping project, we received an email from the firm executive we’d been talking to stating they had found a much cheaper journey mapping company who was much easier to work with despite their higher fees. Yikes! All we could do at this point was wish them the very best of luck. Fast forward to last month, 11 months later. A junior executive from that same firm contacted us asking for a quote to come in and lay the proper foundations to approach client experience the right way. He specifically said, “we really screwed the pooch on this one and require a seasoned customer experience specialist to not only show us how to do this but also be here with us to walk us through the process. “
I couldn’t help myself. I had to ask—what does ‘screw the pooch mean?’ What specifically happened with the journey mapping project the firm inquired about last year? In a nutshell, he told me it was a disaster and now leadership was involved and wanted it done right. He went to say the firm had spent over $100,000 and had very little to nothing of value to show for it. The firm’s Partner in Charge, whom I was told was extremely disappointed, was later sent three CX Pilots’ documents stating clearly why over 80% of client journey mapping efforts fail to produce actionable outcomes. He wrote in a leadership memo that they didn’t map customer journeys on proper strategic foundations in a culture that can adequately embrace the intention of the mapping effort.” So, he said, “We need to bring that firm back in to lay the proper foundations and help us prepare our culture to embrace this effort with strong communication as a part of a larger CX/EX (client experience/employee experience) program.”
We were on the ground the following week sitting down with the firm’s leadership planning the approach and doing live strategic road mapping and CX management program budgeting to help them understand how to balance their customer experience equation.
Bottom line on the story above, it was hastily contracted, and poorly executed because someone in the firm wanted it done without asking (and answering) the questions necessary to create the right starting conditions that would have made them successful. They allowed the loudest voices in the room to steamroll the effort. Unfortunately, it was done untethered to a CX strategy that should have given a proper time, place and context for journey mapping with a facilitator that could keep everyone on track and honest about really and authentically seeing the world through their customer’s lens.
So, to answer the question, “How can a Customer Experience Specialist benefit your company?” Let’s count the top five ways;
Above we mention that the firm’s journey mapping failed in large part due to not being adequately tethered to a CX strategy. But what is a CX strategy? What is in a customer experience strategy? And how can a company tether their customer journey mapping to a CX strategy?
A customer experience strategy is a formally structured body of planning. It informs a company’s leadership and employees what they plan to do with specific resources over a specific period of time. It details what is to be accomplished leading to specific outcomes so that the organization stands to gain the benefits they want to achieve in becoming experience led or measurably more customer centric. Oftentimes, the larger the company, the more detailed the customer experience or CX strategy.
Too often, we see very vague and non-committal strategies that are actually a list of objectives disconnected from time and team accountability.
The very best customer experience strategies we’ve created and seen from other customer experience specialists have most of the following elements in common:
A good customer experience specialist or consultant will help your organization make sure each of these elements is incorporated into your customer experience strategy, and strong communication to support its success.
Here is most of what you need to know when hiring a customer experience specialist. A customer experience specialist is a person or group of people that understand how to help companies follow their unique pathway to achieve improvements in systematically meeting the varied needs and expectations of their customers through customer experience management programs (also known as CEM or CXM programs). They also know risks. They should have significant demonstrable experience in designing and implementing these CX/EX (employee experience) programs in organizations like yours. They understand the role of laying customer experience into your operational environment and how that should be aligned to your business model. They are familiar with the tenets of change management and understand the critical role your culture has in embracing customer experience and can help you embed CX in ways that increase broad adoption and willingness in the most skeptical working environments. They are adept at developing and embedding measures, metrics or KPI into a CX governance team that protects the work you have done and ensures the organization, as a whole, makes significant and steady advancements along a prescribed CX maturity index.
Optimally, a perfect customer experience specialist will have deep experience in the pre-customer phase of the CX management program. If so, they can help your organization reap the benefits of the integrated ‘buyer’s experience’ (where CX is aligned to your sales and marketing function) in addition to the customer experience. This means they can help your company leverage CX to boost your HR/recruiting, sales/business development, marketing/content/demand generation, and unique onboarding efforts in ways that clearly differentiate your company from competitors.
In a nutshell, the optimal customer experience specialist will be able to understand and align all aspects of your unique brand to those people who are at any stage of customer interaction, experience or engagement with your company.
When reaching out to customer experience specialists, or interviewing prospective CX consultants, you should ask a few difficult questions to see where they stand on certain issues relative to your industry, brand and business model. Here’s why many CX practitioners aren’t actually CX practitioners or customer experience specialists at all. They can lack the knowledge, depth of experience and capabilities required to move your specific type of company forward. The best examples are agencies or firms that have decades of experience in public relations, marketing or advertising and pick up customer journey mapping as a quick way to add another service line to their portfolio of offerings. Some may be terrific. Most lack the capabilities needed to advance your specific CX objectives.
In many cases, this can set your company back a few years if you aren’t seeing the outcomes you expect from the effort. Worse yet, they can reveal false positives that drive your company down into unproductive rabbit holes while your competition is investing in outcome-oriented journey mapping allowing them to make pivotal and innovative service quality changes that drive your customers toward them (this, unfortunately, is a real story).
Top interview questions to ask prospective CX consultants or customer experience specialists:
Here is a CX management program approach we have found to be highly successful for services-based firms:
In order to get good input from customer experience specialists, you’re going to need to have a pretty strong definition of what CX or customer experience means to you and your company. This is probably something you should have already done—if not, you may want to start first with establishing your org’s definitive concept of CX or customer experience. We suggest using our definition until you are able to establish one that is uniquely yours. A customer experience is the set of highly subjective experiences that lie in a person’s memory or are experienced in the moment, that both influence and are influenced by logical + emotional drives that, in turn, may lead to specific behaviors.
A CX solution is a remedy to a problem revolving around the experience a customer has had, has currently, or can have in the future with a company. The clearest example is a CX Management Program. A CX Management (CXM or CEM) Program is a solution to a company’s lack of consistently actionable information about the experience customers have with its brand—so they can make necessary improvements. Such a solution would enable a company to institute strategic enhancements that improve customer experiences and subsequently; increase loyalty, improve retention, drive revenue or enhance the company’s overall brand. As a customer experience solutions provider, we focus all of our attention on making sure this happens at all costs in a well-orchestrated string of strategic pilot projects allowing a company to drive positive outcomes from a customer experience management program.
A good customer experience is what the typical organization targets with CX. Think of it as one measurable unit of CX. We believe a better question is, what is your ideal customer experience? What should your organization strive for?
First, you have to define what an ideal customer is by closely examining your customer base and applying the work of customer segmentation to sort different types of customers into categories who may be looking for different types of experiences. From that, you can begin to see patterns of ideal customers—those with whom you want to interact more closely and frequently.
Your firm’s ideal client is one who shares enough of your values to develop an affinity for your offering over others despite the fact you may charge a premium over the alternative options.
They like who you are, what you do, and how you do it more than they like your competitors because they like who they are when they do business with you. In fact, they like their experience with you and your brand to the extent they voluntarily share their account of the interactions they experienced with others in ways that are able to outperform any marketing you may be able to do. Not paying attention to this phenomena can cost your firm millions.
Their ideal customer experience is the way you make them feel when your offering helps simplify their lives, solves their problem and makes them want to brag about using your offering over alternatives because they are only aligned with the best. Their customer experience is made better in that unique way your company’s offering makes them feel even though they may have to drive farther, pay more, wait longer, accept some compromises or work a little harder. The ideal customer experience can therefore be summed up as: that experience a customer is willing to trade-up to have with your brand because it exceeds the value they can get elsewhere and makes them feel better for having had the opportunity to experience it with you/your brand.
Hopefully this information will be helpful to you as you plan for, reach out to, and ultimately engage a CX or customer experience specialist to guide you in the right direction.